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Losers To Winners: Lessons From Top 5 Corporate Branding Comebacks


Corporate Branding Losers to Winners: “Simplicity and Concept”

With so many online and offline tools out there in the market, creating a compelling visual/graphics based marketing for your brand should not be complicated. It should be easy and straightforward! Right? However, this isn’t always the case. Note that DesignBold already offers brand kits and various other templates.

If you have invested considerable time in managing a brand’s identity by the use of visuals, then you would agree that while the design process is getting more convenient, it’s also getting more difficult to stand out from the crowd.

The way to solve this maze is to understand what makes an appealing brand design. It is also necessary to learn from real examples where a design change has benefited companies.

Paul Rand was one of the most prolific graphic designer of the 20th century who designed logos for many high profile brands such as IBM, UPS, Enron and many more. In one of his quotes, Paul Rand has beautifully explained the intimate relationship between brand identity and design. He says,

“Design Is The Silent Ambassador for Your Brand”

Does your design have the power of Simplicity and Concept?

An analysis of the logos or graphic design materials of any of the top brands in the world will impress you. However, when you take a closer look, you would realize the amount of detailing that has gone into the designs. When we say details, it does not mean a sophisticated design. It can be an easy to follow model too.

In the case of every successful brand, there is a purpose and well thought out strategy for the visual marketing. The aim is to highlight the USP of the brand product. Moreover, this is where all the top companies excel in their designs. For example, consider the logo of FedEx.

FedEx logo has an arrow hidden within the alphabets. It is intentionally and smartly created to convey the courier company’s fast delivery service.

Therefore, the two most important points to gather from this example is – Simplicity & Concept.

The above two are the most critical aspects of any visual design branding. The other elements of color, fonts, images, vectors will easily fall into place after these two elements are set.

Having discussed the significance of design concept and simplicity, let us now analyze some of the visual branding losers and winners that have either harmed the brand or raised it to another level altogether. We have an opportunity to learn from every example cited. Keep in mind that if you try to please everyone, you’ll end up pleasing no one. In the effort to make everyone happy, you might end up in creating more dissatisfaction instead. So always have a clear sense of your target market segments, and allocate resources accordingly.

Now let’s analyze some of the best examples of corporate designs that adapted to changing times, turning losers into winners. Learning from the experience of others is much better than making those costly mistakes on our own.

5 Best Examples of Corporate Branding Losers to Winners

1. Airbnb (Airbed & Breakfast)

In the year 2008, Airbnb started off as a small-scale experiment when designers Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia could not afford the rent on their San Francisco apartment. Therefore, to make ends meet, they finalized to rent out their loft as a lodging space including three air mattresses on the floor and the comfort of a home-cooked breakfast in the morning. Since that early day, Airbnb has gradually created an enormous market where people can rent out spaces while they are away.

However, the growth of Airbnb was not rapid and smooth as it appears to be. In the initial, to middle years the company was facing massive debts trying to generate a viable business funnel, and its owners were selling novelty cereal boxes at $40 per box to raise $30 K.

At that point in time, the design of Airbnb consisted of a simple stylized font.

However, the founders realized that the design is not reflective of the of the sense of adventure and travel associated with the brand of Airbnb. Thus after six long years, they thought of changing the logo. This task was assigned to London based design firm DesignStudio. After months of brainstorming & ideation, the Airbnb logo was finally revamped.

Credits: DesignStudio

This logo change/release on 16 July 2014, created a global trend on various social media outlets. On Twitter, Airbnb trended for 8 hours. The launch of the rebrand had created a global conversation, making this date the most significant day in Airbnb’s history.

It has created a much-required boost and exposure for the business of Airbnb, and there has been no looking back after that. The Airbnb logo has now become a cultural phenomenon spanning across countries and continents.

It is a perfect example of a design change that has taken Airbnb from almost a miss to new heights of success.

Credits: DesignStudio

Key takeaways:

If you are aiming at a global spread of your brand in time, then it is wise to create a design with global consumers in mind. Along with the name of the brand aim at creating a symbolic logo that can be used easily by every one as a reminder of your brand. It is the route Airbnb took, and it is paying rich dividends to the brand ever since.

2. Optus (Design To Face The Competition)

Optus (established in 1992) is the second largest internet and phone communications provider in Australia. However, by 2013 it was facing a tough challenge from the market leader Telstra.

To add further to the scenario, new players were emerging with dedicated efforts to target young consumers.

So, rather than giving a fight to Telstra, Optus was leaking out market shares. One of the main reasons was the ineffectiveness of the brand visual marketing to connect with the population. Especially the youth.

Therefore, in 2013, Sydney-based design agency Re, was assigned the task of redesigning. Have a look at the old design:

Photo of Milford Sound in New Zealand

Though, a transparent model, it was evident that with the changing times, the branding around it was not working well. It directly was affecting the sales and taking the company towards a miss.

Therefore, Re conceptualized the new design to connect with the young as well as older consumers. After almost a year of ideations and revisions, the new design got approved.

As mentioned just before, the company was aiming to retain the flavor of the old design and at the same time have a “New Punch” to it for people to take notice.

In this new approach, the “Optus” font was made crisper, and the “Yes” was moved out of the speech bubble. The “Yes” was now the centerpiece of visual branding. This approach reflected the idea of the consumers that “with Optus, YES!, you can.

Photo of Milford Sound in New Zealand

The design agency Re gave an official statement after the release of the new logo:

The playful tone of the bubble font logo was no longer appropriate for the entertainment-led brand Optus needed to become. The new strategy was to make much more of Yes and treat Optus as a corporate endorsement. In essence to make the logo more neutral, grown-up and established, yet oh so familiar.

The previous “Yes” lived in a speech bubble and worked as a sidekick to the wobbly typography. However, the current rendering made “Yes” the focal point. Moreover, it has worked wonderfully for the brand. The main reason for the success of the design is the flexibility of the word “Yes.”

The company started using it to promote all the major offers and soon it became a brand symbol among the population. Anything designated “Yes” indicated Optus.

Credits: Underconsideration

Key takeaways:

Always try to imbibe a certain sense of creative fun in your designs. This element can vary in degree depending on the type of product or service you are selling. In the case of consumer products and online SAAS services, it makes complete sense to develop a tagline that can separate your product from rest of the competition. A brand statement to connect the consumer with the essence of your service.

3. The Guardian (Design for Curbing Losses and Refinding Relevance)

The Guardian is a British newspaper with an approximate circulation of 146,000 and a website that reaches 152 million unique visitors a year. It is a long-standing brand (established in the year 1821) with a broad reach among the English and world population. Even then by 2017, the flagship of The Guardian (along with its sister publications) was incurring substantial losses. The reason being decreasing print sales and emergence of multiple new online news hubs.

To counter this competition,  Guardian Media Group, started with a 3-year plan in the year 2016. Moreover, one of the tasks was modifying the brand logo that can fit perfectly with various new additions such as new website, mobile site, app, new masthead, and new headline font.

The old brand logo consisted of two different variations of blue. It was also not so appropriate for the smaller screen sizes required for online distribution of the contents.

Photo of Milford Sound in New Zealand

In the redesign, the font style, color, and arrangement were completely changed. It made the masthead prominent in all the print and online mediums.

Photo of Milford Sound in New Zealand

The monogram was also changed with more emphasis on the alphabet G. The idea was to make it more consistent with the masthead when used in mobile apps.

Photo of Milford Sound in New Zealand

The above design changes fit perfectly well with the new vision of The Guardian. For example, check out the new design in print.

Photo of Milford Sound in New Zealand
Credits © The Guardian

The change also came up very well in the online versions. The response to the design changes was majorly positive. It is evident in increasing sales and even the increase in the awareness of the brand name among youngsters.


Key takeaways:

Sometimes there is the need to scream out the brand name. Even if you are already established in your sector. Mediums of reaching consumers keep evolving. In the face of this ever-changing scenario, it is apt to sometimes make some drastic changes to reput your brand name in front of the old and new consumers in a strong way. Just like “the Guardian” did it. It can be the difference between going from a miss to a hit.

4. Zendesk (Use of Geometry to Stay Afloat)

In terms of SAAS years, a decade is a long time to be. Zendesk was started in 2007, in a Copenhagen loft by three friends who used an old kitchen door as a desk. They wanted to bring a bit of zen to the chaotic world of customer support. Moreover, they wanted to do it with software that was nice to look at and easy to use.

However, by late 2016 Zendesk was amidst fierce competition from many new customer support SAAS such as intercom, help scout and many more. There was a gradual shift of even loyal consumers to the newer services.

It was the right time for ZenDesk to change their visual branding to recapture and re-insert the vision of ZenDesk that was facing the toughest competition in over a decade. Moreover, quite naturally the effort had to start with changing the brand design.

The decade-old logo of ZenDesk comprised of the memorable image of laughing Buddha wearing a headset and talking. The design was instantly recognizable and likable.

Zendesk Old Logo

However, with time the design was appearing stagnant. Amidst the rising competition from newer and more innovative customer support platforms, the design of ZenDesk was not indicating towards any innovation in the platform. Compared to it, the visual branding of intercom and many others were sleeker and more enticing for the consumers.

It was time for the ZenDesk in-house design team to go for something very different to grab the people’s attention and this is what they exactly did in the new design.

The new ZenDesk logo consisted of Z which is comprising of various geometrical shapes. The new logo is a representation of various parts of Zendesk’s business. Here’s how Zendesk is describing these multiple parts of the logo:

The small triangle on top of the bigger one stands for Zendesk’s analytics engine named Explore. The company’s Help Center is represented by two arrows, with one leading the other. Finally, Zendeks’s Support is shown by the tall rectangle that leans into the short square.

The ZenDesk in-house designers created some fantastic animations based on the shapes in the current logo. These motion animations were extensively used in the ZenDesk kick-off events all over the world. It resulted in a considerable online buzz. For example, check out the very popular and viral animated Gif by 

Credits: Sara Farnsworth: Kaleidoshapes for ZenDesk

With the help of this new design, ZenDesk was able to represent its tools, services, and innovations in a more interactive way in front of the consumers. This change in visual branding enabled the company to create the much-required buzz and start recapturing the market it was gradually losing to the competition.

Key Takeaways:

It does not matter how old and reliable your venture is. If the visual branding does not reflect the innovations in your product or services, then perhaps it is time to go for the much necessary change in the designs. If you do not then consumers will not know about your innovations and assume otherwise. They would not hesitate shifting to newer brands.

5. Budweiser (It’s Good to be King)

Sometimes there is the need to change the visual branding even if you are the top of your game. You do not need to wait for the loser before seeking winners. And the redesign adopted by Budweiser is the best example of it.

Budweiser is one of the best-selling beers in the United States and probably one of the most recognized beer brands at a worldwide scale. It is a global mammoth and has been at the top since the time it first came to the market in 1876.

However, by September 2016, the company was ready with complete new branding design. The new concept is designed by Jones Knowles Ritchie.

Credits @ Underconsideration & Budweiser

So, what was the need to change the design when the business is strong and popular? The answer lies in preemption. With the changing ways how the users are interacting with the brand, a change in the design was eminent in the near future.

Therefore, the old design was stripped of all the additional elements that served no purpose. The font was changed to a more crisp style, removing the shadows and inlines. This made the design more flexible to use in various online mediums.

At the same time, it also opened the opportunity for variations of the design that can be used for packaging different varieties of beer.

Variations of new Budweiser Design

Key Takeaways: 

You do not always need to wait till the point your brand starts to slow down to consider a design change. Even if your brand is at the top of its game and business, always keep an open mind towards the branding design. In response to changing technology and ways how consumers interact with the brand, you can go for new designs or variations. Budweiser is the perfect example of it.

Conclusion and How We Can Help

Planning the design for your brand might be fun. However, it has serious consequences on the viability and success of your product. In this detailed post, we discussed two cardinal rules of brand design – Simplicity and Concept.

We also reviewed the designs of 5 popular brands and how correct changes at the right time not only bailed the companies out of sticky times but also took them to new heights of success.

Therefore, it is time for you to analyze the approach of your brand design. If you realize that you need to modify it then there is no point in just waiting for the right time. Start working on it from today.

Also, do not forget DesignBold, can be a valuable tool in designing visual branding materials for your brand in a matter of minutes (for both online and offline use). Have a look how easy DesignBold makes it for you to create designs for your brands.

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